Sarah ASAHINA champion of the World Judo Championships 2021

Clash of the Titans

Written by Nicolas Messner, Jo Crowley, Pedro Lasuen on 12. Jun 2021
Photographs by Gabriela Sabau, Marina Mayorova, Emanuele Di Feliciantonio, Lars Moeller Jensen

World Judo Championships 2021 – Hungary
Courtesy to International Judo Federation 

 It is well known that, as the days go by, more noise is produced on the tatami, louder as we close in on the end of the competition. On the seventh and final individual day of the World Judo Championships Hungary 2021, it was not necessary to tune the ear because when a body fell on the tatami the sound it produced echoed throughout the stadium. This is what the heaviest categories have; you can hear them from a long distance.


It’s been a strong day with not too many golden score contests. The final block gave us the contests we expected, on the whole, with all 4 top ranked men making the medal contests. The women weren’t quite so predictable, although the main interloper was Tomita (JPN), not as well known as her compatriot, Asahina, who made the final without too much resistance.
This final day is not just about the competition but has been punctuated by meetings for important future projects, which are facilitated best when the judo family can be together at global meets such as this world championships.

78kg: Golden Kindness for ASAHINA Those who are suspicious of heavyweights have a chance to change their minds. The preliminaries of the +78kg category was a model of speed, efficiency and offensive judo. The competition debuted at 10:00am. An hour and a half later and we already had the four semi-finalists.

Almost all of the matches ended with ippon or, in the worst case, waza-ari. The message is very simple: no-one takes the world championships lightly, at least among the heaviest women. From the first match they all worked rigorously, they all applied themselves to win with class and style.
The first final of the day was a one hundred percent Japanese final, as it was at -48kg. Japan dominated the first day and wanted to close the world championship with its seal of first world power.

The first penalties came after 45 seconds for the two athletes for passivity and the first really dangerous action came from ASAHINA with a strong sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi that was really close to scoring. It was time for the golden score period. With 2:26 of extra time, ASAHINA received her second shido for passivity, a logical reward for TOMITA, who proved to be more active, but after a last false attack, TOMITA received a third penalty that gave the victory to Sarah ASAHINA. As TOMITA was slightly injured in the last action, we saw the new world champion coming to her opponent, also her friend and loaded her on her back to leave the tatami. Only sport and only judo can offer such fair-play images. It’s worth noting that Asahina, even with her precious cargo, turned back to the mat to bow before leaving. She would have been forgiven for not doing so but we see what real champions are made of when they behave so humbly. 
Sarah ASAHINA said, "The most difficult contest today was the final. I was about to lose and then she got injured. I am very sad for her and that is why I helped her to leave the mat as much as I could."


Earlier in the day, we paid attention to many matches as the tournament was unfolding. Idalys Ortíz (CUB) is the most awarded judoka in Latin America. She has won absolutely everything, in some cases several times, but she has not had an easy year due to Covid. The world number one does not complain, though, "Competitor once, competitor always," she said, between contests. 

From the first match, Asahina showed a large part of her repertoire, a mixture of technical quality and experience. It was a shame for Velensek (SLO), Olympic bronze medallist, to have to meet Asahina (JPN) in the preliminaries. Both are capable of winning big medals, but that’s the way of judo! Velensek went out in the 3rd round and the young Japanese star moved into the last 8.
Ortiz moved into her semi-final against this old acquaintance, Asahina Sarah (JPN). At no time during the day was Ortiz nervous or impatient, always executing the right movement at the right time. However, against Asahina she had to do something else because they know each other by heart and the Japanese, who has also travelled to Budapest to win her third world title, was highly motivated and especially offensive from her first fight.

They reached golden score, each weighed down by two shido. A third was close to being called because neither attacked. Ortíz then tried to surprise Asahina, who countered for waza-ari, with the flavour of a big final.
The second semi-final opposed Beatriz Souza (BRA) and the second Japanese athlete in the running, Tomita Wakaba. Souza is a promising 23 year old and is ranked third in the world. She is in constant progression and has earned a medal in six of the last seven tournaments she has participated in.

Tomita is a year older and was junior world champion in 2015. She is less tall, but faster and with a refined technique, it was a fight between opposing styles. Throughout the morning, Tomita was dedicated to demolishing all her rivals; four fights, four ippon. Souza had the merit of stretching the fight to golden score, but she did not escape from a text book ippon executed by Tomita.
In the first bronze medal contest, Julia TOLOFUA (FRA) was ready to grab her first medal at this level, in the absence of the one who starts to scare all her opponents: her teammate Romane DICKO. TOLOFUA faced Beatriz SOUZA (BRA) for a place on the podium. TOLOFUA seemed to be in control of the match. This was not obvious, but still visible. However, as she missed her counter attack after an o-soto-gari attempt from SOUZA, TOLOFUA was thrown for a waza-ari and caught for a 10 second hold for ippon. This is a first world medal for Beatriz SOUZA at this level. 

The second Brazilian competitor Maria Suelen ALTHEMAN (BRA) was opposed to judo legend Idalys ORTIZ (CUB). After 45 seconds, the first shido were distributed for passivity to the two medal contenders. The match started to be a little more animated, with big counter attacks, such as ura-nage and yoko-guruma, from ORTIZ and more discrete combinations from ALTHEMAN. After a failed attempt from the Cuban, the latter found herself under her opponent for an immobilisation, but ALTHEMAN couldn't hold ORTIZ for more than 10 seconds. Golden score! ALTHEMAN was rapidly penalised a second time for passivity, but during the next sequence, she controlled her opponent perfectly to counter attack and with just a little foot movement that was at the right place at the right moment, she threw ORTIZ for ippon to win her third bronze medal at a world championships. 

The medals, checks and Huawei gifts were presented by Mr Jean Pierre Raffarin, Former Prime Minister of France, Mr Vlad Marinescu, Director General of the International Judo Federation and Mr.Gaspar Maroth, Government Commissioner of the Department of Defense Development of Hungary


Final ASAHINA, Sarah (JPN) vs. TOMITA, Wakaba (JPN)
Bronze Medal Contests TOLOFUA, Julia (FRA) vs. SOUZA, Beatriz (BRA) ALTHEMAN, Maria Suelen (BRA) vs. ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB)

Final Results 1. ASAHINA, Sarah (JPN) 2. TOMITA, Wakaba (JPN) 3. ALTHEMAN, Maria Suelen (BRA) 3. SOUZA, Beatriz (BRA) 5. ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB) 5. TOLOFUA, Julia (FRA) 7. CHEIKH ROUHOU, Nihel (TUN) 7. MOJICA, Melissa (PUR) 

Curtsey to IJF

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